Adam Gase can’t stop his players from dreaming about the playoffs. But he is treating such talk the way the Jets’ defense has played the run game: He’s shutting it down.
“We got a long ways to go,” Gase said on a conference call Monday. “I’ve been in this spot quite a few times, as far as with five games left and everybody starts talking about [things] outside of this week. And that’s when the wrong thing happens.”
The Jets’ 34-3 domination of Oakland on Sunday was their third straight win and brought them to 4-7. They next play the 0-11 Bengals and the 2-9 Dolphins, and they have scored 34 points in each of their last three games.
But Gase, who reached the playoffs only once in three seasons as Dolphins coach, is right. The Jets have a long way to go, and they’re likely not going to end their playoff drought, which currently stands at eight years. They still have road games against the Ravens (9-2) and the Bills (8-3).
Gase’s job is to get his team prepared for each game. But in a season that appeared to be lost in October, the Jets have made enough strides for people inside and outside their locker room to at least broach the subject of the playoffs.
Sam Darnold was the first one to do it after the Jets beat the Giants two weeks ago. Gase spoke to Darnold about it and told him to never look ahead and worry only about your next opponent. He got the message.
“We always try to look at everything one week at a time,” Darnold said Monday. “That’s really our mindset and I don’t think it’s going to change.’’
The Jets will go for their fourth straight win Sunday in Cincinnati against the NFL’s only winless team. But it just got a little more difficult.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor announced Monday that rookie quarterback Ryan Finley, who started the past three games, will go back to the bench and that nine-year veteran Andy Dalton will start against the Jets. Dalton gives the Bengals a better chance to win than Finley does.
The Jets have been more concerned with their performance than whom they’re facing, though. Four games ago, they were beaten by the Dolphins, which was the low point of this season.
Even though the Jets have the common 24-hour rule — they have to move on from all games after they watch video and clean things up, win or lose — that game surely will be brought up this week.
It should help the Jets to stay focused on themselves and this week only, and not the playoffs.
“We really don’t think like that,” defensive end Henry Anderson said. “We’ve won three in a row. But still, at the end of the day, we’re 4-7. We know we dug ourselves in a hole with the way we played earlier in the year.
As good as we’ve played at points the last two weeks, we know where we’re at.”
The Jaguars, Chargers and Jets are all 4-7, a game behind the 10th-place Browns in the AFC standings.
It’s a long, long, long shot because of the awful start, when the Jets lost seven of their first eight games and were not competitive in many of them.
The schedule has loosened up for the Jets, however, and if their offense can continue to execute the way it has during this winning streak and the No. 1 run defense keeps rising to the challenge, the Jets could be 6-7 heading into Baltimore in Week 15.
Gase won’t let the Jets go there, and rightfully so.
“We need to stay focused on the task at hand right now,” he said. “Our guys will hear it enough this week that that’s what we need to do. I expect us to just worry about what we need to do this week. We need to go find a way to win a game.”